How good is an elite college basketball team when it gets the chance to huddle up, draw the perfect play and then try to execute that play according to plan?
Pretty, pretty good. That's what I found from looking at just how good the top five men's basketball teams in the country are after a timeout.
I'll describe the method I used a little further down, but first here are some of the highlights from the data:
- Baylor is elite. The Bears average 1.13 more points per offensive possession than its opponents after a timeout. The Bears average 1.55 points per possession when they're on offense immediately after a timeout, while their opponents average only 0.43 points per possession when the Bears are on defense immediately after a timeout.
- Villanova's offensive efficiency after a timeout isn't far behind that of Baylor. The Wildcats average 1.50 points per possession after a stoppage in play.
- Baylor forces a turnover 40 percent of the time when its opponents are on offense on the first possession after a timeout.
- Gonzaga is assisting on more than 76 percent of its made baskets when it's on offense immediately after a timeout.
- More than half of Villanova's shots are 3-pointers when it's on offense immediately after a timeout.
- More than 42 percent of Kansas' shots are around the rim (layups, dunks or tip shots) when it's on offense immediately after a timeout.
- Gonzaga has a 63.6 percent free-throw rate on possessions in which it's on offense immediately after a timeout, as the Zags have attempted 14 free throws compared to 22 field goals on those possessions.
Here's the approach used. I analyzed the play-by-play data for five of the best teams in the country — Gonzaga, Baylor, Villanova, Texas and Kansas — and identified every timeout in a game, regardless of who called it or if it was a TV timeout. I then broke down the possession immediately following the timeout. Who was on offense? Who was on defense? Did the team on offense score? If so, how many points? Was there an offensive rebound? What about an assist? Did anyone go to the free-throw line?
The possession ended after a made shot, a missed shot rebounded by the defense, a turnover or the end of the half. That's when my analysis of the possession ended.
If there were back-to-back timeouts, or if there was a timeout called in the middle of a possession, then I only counted the possession as one after-timeout possession, not two. Timeouts that occurred while the game clock was stopped, between a foul being called and the player who was fouled shooting free throws were not counted in this analysis. Neither were timeouts that were taken in between free-throw attempts.
To better contextualize the data, I used per-possession efficiency numbers, or points per possession (PPP), which tells us how many points an offense or defense scores or allows, respectively, on average. For reference, the national average in college basketball this season is just over 1.00 point per possession.
I also analyzed results such as turnovers, assists and offensive rebounds on a percentage basis, to examine on what percent of a team's after-timeout possessions it committed or forced a turnover, or what percent of its made baskets were assisted.
The stats below are current through Jan. 5.
Offensive performance after a timeout
The following schools are listed in descending order of offensive points per possession on possessions immediately following a timeout this season. Scroll to the right to view the complete chart.
|school||possessions||points||PPP||turnover rate||assist rate||free-throw rate|
Once again, one point per possession is roughly average nationally, so all five teams examined are above average, with Villanova and Baylor averaging at least 1.5 points per possession when they're on offense on the first possession after a timeout.
Free-throw rate calculates how many free throws a team attempts compared to its number of field-goal attempts, such that a 50-percent free throw rate would mean that a team averages one free throw attempt for every two field goal attempts. This is a metric that can often tell you how aggressive, or how tough to guard, is a basketball team. Assist rate examines what percent of a team's made baskets were assisted.
The types of shots teams take after a timeout
The following table breaks down the types of shots that the five programs examined have taken after a timeout, which includes missed shots in which the team on offense then grabs the rebound and gets a second or third chance to score. Field- goal attempts were not included in which a player was fouled and missed the shot.
|school||Layup/dunk/tip shot||2-point jumper||3-point jumper||total|
|Gonzaga||8 (36.4%)||5 (22.3%)||9 (40.9%)||22|
|Baylor||12 (34.2%)||10 (28.6%)||13 (37.1%)||35|
|Villanova||10 (20.4%)||14 (28.6%)||25 (51.0%)||49|
|Texas||15 (34.1%)||11 (25.0%)||18 (40.9%)||44|
|Kansas||16 (42.1%)||11 (28.9%)||11 (28.9%)||38|
Villanova has attempted a 3-pointer on more than half of its field-goal attempts this season after a timeout. The 3-point attempt rate for Gonzaga and Texas after a timeout is above 40 percent. Meanwhile, more than 40 percent of Kansas' shot attempts on possessions in which it is on offense immediately after a timeout have been layup, dunks or tip shots.
Defensive performance after a timeout
The following schools are listed in ascending order of points per possession allowed on the possessions immediately after a timeout.
|school||possessions||points||PPP||turnover rate||assist rate allowed|
Baylor's defensive efficiency on possessions in which the Bears are on defense immediately after a timeout is beyond impressive. Through Jan. 4, the best adjusted defensive efficiency rating nationally, per kenpom.com, is Tennessee at 0.86 points allowed per possession. Baylor's raw defensive efficiency rating (not adjusted for the quality of opponent or the location of the game, like kenpom.com) is literally half of Tennessee's national-best mark.
So whatever Scott Drew and his staff draw up in the huddle is likely to work. The Bears have forced their opponents into a turnover on 40 percent of their possessions after a timeout.
A defensive assist rate tells you what percent of the shots scored against the defense were assisted, so it can often work as a proxy to tell you how often baskets were scored within the flow of the offense, or whether opponents had to score on isolation plays after the original play broke down.
For reference, the best defensive assist rate in the country, through Jan. 4, is Saint Mary's with a 32.1-percent assist rate allowed. Texas is second nationally at 34.9 percent, so the Longhorns' general ability to limit assisted baskets after timeouts falls in line with the team's MO.